It has been a few days since the Hindu Yuva Manch and the Hindu Yuva Vahini marched into the Aligarh Muslim University, quite controversially at that, and demanded that the poster of Mohammad Ali Jinnah be taken down. It all began when the BJP MLA from Aligarh, Satish Gautam in a letter to the AMU Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor asked why the poster was there. What unfolded was a bit tragic as the confrontation between the Hindutva elements and the AMU students got violent leading to stone pelting and lathi charge by the police on the students. Section 144 was imposed in Aligarh and internet connectivity was shut off.
THE JINNAH PORTRAIT
Contrary to the popular belief, the portrait of the founding father of Pakistan and also an influential leader of the Congress Pre-Independence, Mohammad Ali Jinnah has been hung at the AMU student union’s office for more than 60 years. Jinnah was in fact awarded a lifetime membership at the University in 1938 for his contribution to the Muslim society and for his accomplishments and was a donor to the AMU. Jinnah was also a founder member of the University court in 1920. The AMU spokesman also told PTI that traditionally all lifetime membership awardees had their posters placed on the walls of the student union office.
2 days before the confrontation, the University had rejected a proposal by a student to organize an RSS Shaakha by saying that the University does not allow any political party to have any direct intervention in their campus. This could be seen as a contributing factor. Former Vice President and ex-Professor at AMU Hamid Ansari was to attend an event at the University campus which was eventually canceled. He had arrived a day earlier to receive a lifetime membership at the student’s union, which Jinnah too had received. Patrons of the right-wing groups had marched into the University campus demanding to remove the portrait of Jinnah and that is not the only surprising part.
The AMU students claim that it was, in fact, the police who escorted the ‘outsiders’ into the campus and instead of taking action against them, the students were lathi charged. 28 students were injured in the same. AMU Student’s Union (AMUSU) leader Mashkoor Usmani claimed that it was a planned attack by the Hindu activists. The activists started raising provoking slogans including the likes of ‘If you want to live in India say Vande Mataram, Jai Shri Ram!’. Further, the activists marched towards where Ansari was present, House No.3, where there was a lapse in security altogether. More than 5000 students gathered at the Baab-e-Syed gate demanding a judicial probe against the activists. As the crowd became ‘uncontrollable’ Rapid Action Force had to be deployed to ‘control’ them.
DEMAND OF THE STUDENTS
AMU student Eva Varshney who has been actively protesting this issue said that “The AMU students and their staffers are outraged by the behavior of the police and that of the outsiders.” The fact that it was the students who were attacked and not the outside elements, and in a rather violent manner is very irksome. According to reports, the police refused to file FIRs by the students against the protesters. En route to the Dodhpur police station, where the students were to file an FIR, they were lathi-charged by the police. In short, the AMU students who gathered in protest, want the FIRs to be filed against the culprits. Only 2 FIRs were filed by the Aligarh police, 1 was against 300 unnamed AMU students and AMUSU members and the other against 22 unnamed people by the AMU security authorities, Javed Khan in-charge of the Civil Lines police station said. Mohibul Haq, an assistant professor of English who participated in the meeting today told VICE that “certain sections” are trying to portray AMU as an anti-national institute. “It’s not a Muslim institution, nor run by Muslims. The Jinnah portrait has been saved to curate history. We are not in the business of rewriting things according to the convenience of others.”
Shockingly enough, the CM of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath said, the “act of honoring the man who was responsible for the Partition of the country will never be tolerated”. He said that he has asked for a report from the district administration. It would’ve been more encouraging on the part of the CM to also openly condemn the violent manner in which the activists marched into the University. It seems that some authorities forget that we live in a country with a perfectly capable judicial authority to address the grievances of the masses.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah played a significant role in Congress before India’s independence. That he was majorly responsible for the partition of India cannot be denied. But the point is, the poster of Jinnah was hung at a time when the concept of partition was non-existent. Jinnah was a controversial figure and if there are any disagreements in this regard, there is a way to deal with it whilst causing minimum hurt. But the brazen arrogance and violence of the Hindutva elements is nothing new to us. It also not new that a particular minority is being targeted. Various other institutes like the JNU, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad, Jamia Millia Islamia who have been, in the past 4 years, violently accused of harboring ‘ANTI-NATIONAL’ sentiments have come out in support of AMU. The students have gone on a fast and held a dharna.
Raja Mahendra Pratap was amongst the few Hindu kings who made donations towards the foundation of the University. Among the demands by the activists as well as the grandson of the Late Jat king, is that there should be a photo of the King as well. But the photo of the late king is present in the University although not in the Student’s Union office for which you need a lifetime membership. The photo is present in the Maulana Azad Library of the University.
The exams of the university have been postponed. The internet connectivity has been restored, although the communal harmony has not.